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June 6, 2017 | by  | in VUWSA |
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Presidential Address

Housing standards all hot air, but none of it in student flats

Last year the government introduced minimum standards for insulation in all rental properties. By July 2019 all rentals must have some insulation in the floor and ceiling. This came on the back of widespread concern about the condition of the country’s rental stock and the effect this was having on the health and wellbeing of an increasing number of kiwis who are renters (nearly half of the population).

The cost-benefit ratio of insulating NZ rentals is 6:1, which shows just how much damage is being done by cold, damp houses. Students have a fair bit of first-hand experience with the poor quality of rentals that are available in Wellington and around the country and by this point in the year most will be getting to know their new flatmate black mould pretty well. You would think these standards sound like good progress. However, a year down the track, things aren’t looking rosy.

Firstly, the policy itself is very weak compared to what’s needed to fix the issue. The level of insulation required is only 100mm (about the size of a coffee mug), and there have been no provisions for other crucial pieces of the puzzle; heating and ventilation.

Secondly, the government has scrapped the highly successful Warm Up New Zealand Scheme, a programme that saw about 20% of the countries 1.7 million homes insulated.

And thirdly, one year into the three year lead in time provided for rental properties to be insulted, there is little evidence that landlords are taking action, and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment have no way of even knowing how many rentals have been insulated.

This all points to the fact that despite a song and dance about this big new policy, all we’ve seen so far is the stripping away of subsidies and landlords running way behind time for the 2019 deadline. Little to cherish as student flats feel the icy grip of a Wellington winter once again.

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